Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sermon for 8/24/14--Trinity X



Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The people of Israel weren't sorry for their sins. They thought that having a temple meant they could just do whatever they wanted out in the world. After all, they could just cry, "The temple! I'm at the Temple!" And it's no different for Christians. You know the attitude: I can do whatever I want, live how I want, because it's all just forgiven in church anyway. You go out into the world and forget all about the Lord for the week and do whatever you feel like, despising your neighbor and doing whatever pleases you, and then stroll through these doors as if it's all magically gone. My brothers and sisters in Christ, you have the same problem God's people have always had: you are in danger of turning His grace into a joke. You are in danger of turning His church into a hideout for bandits. You turn showing up for church into the work that saves you. Jesus warns Jerusalem that, because that's the way they've received God's Word, the city would be wiped off the map. Tremble at the judgment of God that is in store for those who make His house into a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

But see then what our Lord Jesus does. Jesus comes to you. He comes to robbers and thieves who would make a hideout of His church. He comes, hidden in the flesh, that He might hide us from God's wrath and punishment for our sins. Like a common criminal they nail Him to the tree between two thieves. And there, on the cross, the Lord dies like a thief. He dies for the thieves. Jesus forgives both thieves. One of them hangs there and holds onto his sins, denying that Jesus is accomplishing His salvation. But the other thief beholds Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The man can do nothing on his own but plead for mercy. Jesus speaks to Him, declaring that He Himself is this thief's eternal refuge and shelter.

Here is the Good News of the Gospel: Christ's wounds are your hiding place, your refuge against all sin and evil. Christ dies on the cross and hides you in Himself so that sin, death, devil, hell, and even God's own wrath cannot touch you. And then, dead for your sins, Jesus is laid in a tomb. And on the Third Day He rises from the tomb, leaving behind your sins in the grave. His triumph over death and the devil means that His church, His Temple, is now the place where He dwells, and it is no longer a hideout; it is a shelter. It is no longer a place to "get away with” something; it is a place where our sins are paid for and covered up and taken away by Jesus' blood.

Christ's church is your shelter, your refuge, your place to flee from your sins. And what is given here? Here you receive the water of Holy Baptism to quench your thirst. Here you receive the body and blood of Jesus to nourish you. You receive forgiveness. Whatever you have done against God and your neighbor has been blotted out by the blood of the cross. Your sin against God and neighbor has been washed away at the font, declared null and void by the Absolution. Because these gifts are given by Christ, your sins truly are taken away. What was gained for you by the innocent suffering and death of Jesus is given to you in His church. You can flee here, to Christ's church, as a refuge and a shelter. When your sins overwhelm you, when the devil accuses you, when the troubles of this world rain down on you, then rest easy in your Lord's church, the place of safety and shelter.

Come to His church, not for a hideout but for refuge. Come to Christ's house, not as bandits trying to escape, but as sinners who are truly safe nowhere else. Here at the font, the altar, and the pulpit, Christ has all that you need for your peace: forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus. Here in Jesus and His gifts is your true and safest shelter. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.    

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sermon for 8/17/14--Trinity IX

Sorry, no audio this week.

Forgiving Debts

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Our Lord commends the sons of this world for their single-mindedness and zeal. They are shrewd. They know what they want and they focus upon it. They guard and protect their treasures. On the other hand, even though the sons of light have a far greater gift, they guard it with less zeal than criminals guard their loot. The loot and plunder of this world will not last. Its value is temporary. And yet, without a second thought, you can rattle off the price of what you covet, whether it’s a new car, a new house, a video game, whatever it might be. We all spend a great deal of time counting our money and adding up our debts and the cost of what we wish we had. Why then are you so tongue-tied and confused when asked about the hope that is in you?

The master of the unjust steward commends the steward for his shrewdness. He commends the man for giving away his master’s goods and canceling debt. This is not a master like the masters of men. By this parable Jesus would show you how the Kingdom of God works: where goods are given away for free, debts are canceled, and sinners—liars, cheats, thieves, the unjust—are praised and loved. The Father has given all He has, right down to the life of His Son, to have you. He is like the shepherd who leaves the rest of the flock behind to secure the safety of one sheep. He does not calculate or analyze the cost. The Church is not a business. God is one of us in Christ, but He is not like us. He is holy. He bestows His holiness on you through holy things—Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, Holy Absolution, Holy Word. He gives you faith. Even so, because of the old man still with you, His ways baffle you and mock your wisdom. They are not your ways. But by the faith that He has planted, you know that His ways are good.

So…what goods of the Lord's have you wasted or stolen? How have you been negligent or miserly with God's love? Are you holding grudges? Do you secretly desire vengeance? Are you willing to lie and cheat to gain honor with men? What have you done? How have you violated God's law and spurned His gifts? It doesn't matter how long your list of sins is. It doesn’t matter how you have squandered His gifts. He still wants you back. The debt is canceled. You are free. After all, He is not a master like the masters of men. He loves to forgive. He is gracious. He is holy.

This is a Love so consuming that it would sacrifice a Son. This is a Love so bent on giving that it suffers constant abuse and betrayal. This is a Love so pure that it cannot be spent or end or ever taken away, a Love that cancels debts, ends death, and adopts rebels as sons. Such love seems foolish to the sons of this world. It even seems foolish to many who consider themselves sons of light. This is the incomprehensible Love of God in Christ Jesus. This is the work of the Father in the Spirit of Christ. God has loved you by sending His Son. In His suffering, death, and resurrection He has canceled your debts. He has bathed you in this Love by His Name and water, fed you in this Love with His risen Body and Blood, encouraged and taught you in this Love by His holy Word. These are treasures that moth and rust cannot destroy, that thieves cannot break in and steal. These are the treasures of heaven—even Christ Himself—and it is He who guards, protects, and preserves them for you, who continues to give them to you. He is the steward of the Father who gives away the Father's kingdom and cancels debts. The Master loves to cancels debts, and His love cannot be contained in the vessels of men. With God, there is always more. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sermon for 8/10/14--Trinity VIII



Good Fruit

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus tells us, "Beware! Watch out for false prophets who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." Jesus is warning us that the world is full of preachers and writers and speakers and ideas that all sound good. They might even say stuff about Jesus and sound religious and pious. They have crafty and sneaky ideas designed to make it sound like they’re preaching God's Word, but in fact they would lead you astray from God's Word into death and darkness and eternal hell.

The Lord calls your pastor to preach and teach God's Word and administer Christ's holy sacraments. Scripture tells us, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God." You must do that even with your own pastor. Don't ever take my word for something. Open the Scriptures and see whether what I'm telling you is what the Word of God says. But if you don't know the Word of God so well, let me teach you. We will study it together. Let me show you how Christ Himself teaches that He is the heart and center of all the Scriptures. From cover to cover, it's all about Jesus. It's about the Son of God coming into this world, obedient to His Father, to do the work of saving us from our sins by taking our place and dying and rising again.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, learn what a true prophet is. A true prophet, a true preacher, is one who delivers Jesus. Look at Jesus Himself. Jesus is not just wearing sheepskin. He is the very Lamb of God who takes away sins. He never acts like a wolf, fooling people and then eating them up. He brings the comfort of God's grace to them by preaching the forgiveness of sins. His fruits are blood and water: water that washes away our sins in the font, and blood that nourishes us with the forgiveness, life and salvation He won for us by His death and resurrection. There is no truer Prophet than our Lord. He is the Lamb, the One who bears the fruits of salvation.

So if Jesus is such a prophet and such a Savior, anyone who comes preaching in His Name should give out nothing other than the repentance and forgiveness Christ died and rose to provide. A preacher is to do what Christ has sent him to do: to preach and teach God's Word, to call sinners to repentance, to deliver Jesus at the font, to speak for Jesus the words of absolution, to give Christ’s body and blood to Christians to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. If you go to an apple tree, you expect apples. If you go into a peach orchard, you expect to pick peaches. When you go to a Christian pastor, most especially your own pastor, you should expect Him to warn you away from your sins and point you to Christ. You should expect Him to point you back to the font, to absolve you and to call you to the Holy Supper where Christ feeds you. The fruits of a preacher's ministry are nothing other than the fruits of Christ Himself.

This is why Jesus tells us to watch out for false preachers! It's easy to be deceived into thinking that something other than the forgiveness of sins is what preaching is all about. Don’t trust a pastor who is looking out for himself. Don’t trust a pastor who is in it just for the money or status or authority or popularity. Don’t trust a pastor who claims to be your life coach. If a preacher is preaching for any of those reasons, He is a ravenous wolf. At the same time, don’t measure preachers by looking for the wrong kind of fruit. “That preacher is friendly.” “That preacher makes me feel good.” “That preacher keeps the young people in church.” “That preacher does what I like.” Judging a preacher apart from Christ and the forgiveness of sins welcomes false preaching. You might as well baste yourself to be tasty for the prowling devil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, listen to the Lord's warning today! Watch out for false prophets! Beware of anything and anyone that doesn't preach Christ crucified for you and point you to your Baptism. Watch out for any preaching or teaching that merely exalts you rather than speaking Jesus into your ears. Beware of any religion that exalts the man who preaches rather than the Son of God who died and rose for you. Don't blindly trust your pastor; test him by the Word of God. Test the spirits, knowing that in Christ alone you have salvation. And then, on the Last Day, there will be no need to try to convince Jesus that you were faithful to Him, for Christ Himself will be your boast, your confidence, and your certain entrance into eternal life. Covered by the Lamb Himself and bearing the fruit of His cross, you will have eternal life in Jesus. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sermon for 8/3/14--Trinity VII



Trusting God for Bread

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our heavenly Father promises to give us all that we need for our body and life. We are to trust Him because He gives us his Word of life, and that same Word of life gives us salvation and tells us that the Lord will provide for us in this life. Adam taught his wife differently, and that sin has been with us ever since. Rather than having God's Word first, we run around trying to grab all the stuff of this life. Rather that having God's Word as our highest treasure, we think the most important things in our life are the things we can buy. The Devil loves to tell us the lie: "God's Word can't keep your belly full and a roof over your head." And we believe him!

The disciples were all excited to hear Him preach and teach too, until their tummies started rumbling. The Word of God is great…until you've been with Jesus three days and you're starving. Then what? Jesus feeds them. It doesn't matter how much bread or fish there is; Jesus makes it enough. Jesus comes into this world for unbelieving, worrying, ungrateful idolaters who think they need stuff but don't need God's Word. For our worry, for our idolatry, for our coveting, for our unbelief, for all our sin, Jesus hangs on Calvary, giving His body into death. Over and over Jesus gave up earthly treasure to redeem us from our sins. All Jesus had was the cup of suffering and the ashes and dust of our sins. Yet Jesus trusted in His Father's Word, and that sustained Him. Our sins are His sins, our death is His death. And His life becomes ours. And He rose and lives to give us salvation and all that we need for this body and life.

That's why He feeds the 4,000. Why were the 4,000 there? They had been listening to His Word. Their first concern was His Word. After all, His Word saves them. His Word is true food. His Word is life. His Word is life, but that doesn't mean daily bread is unimportant. So Jesus feeds them. My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is such a temptation for us to think that God's Word and gifts are not the most important thing. Gas prices go up. That means food prices go up. The price of everything is going up. With that comes a huge temptation to worry that we won't have enough for what we need. Jesus fed four thousand with seven loaves of bread. Do you think He can’t or won't provide for you what you need?  We question His goodness. After all, sometimes that next paycheck seems so far away. Even so, did you go hungry? Did you have no place to live? The Lord has made you His own. Do you think He'll let you starve? And even if He did, you still have forgiveness and eternal life and all things.

It's no random detail that St. Mark throws in when he writes that Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and broke it and distributed it. That reminds us of the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper teaches us that Jesus is our Lord—both for eternal life and for now. He doesn't just give us forgiveness of sins. He provides for and cares for us now. God is not just for spiritual things, but also for bodily gifts. When we eat and drink the Lord's body and blood, it feed our bodies and forgives our sins. Just as He dies to bear our sins and makes us God's children, in the same way He provides for us all that we need to live in this life.

Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. From the Words that make you His own at the font to the words that feed you with His own body and blood, Jesus is your Lord for this life and for the life to come. Jesus comes so that there will be One who really does live by God's Word. And that living done by Jesus counts for you. That's what gives you life. Food, clothing, and shelter are no problem for a Lord who can die and rise again and take away your sins. After all, you've got Jesus Himself, and that means you have everything. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Friday, August 01, 2014

HYMN Updated: Saints of God, the Devil, Prowling

I'd been looking for an idea for a hymn for next year's 125th anniversary of my current congregation, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Campbell Hill, Illinois. With the events happening all over the world with Muslims marking out Christians for death, I was inspired to write this. As you can see, I Peter 5 and the Sermon on the Mount influenced this text. I wanted to talk about persecution and how the three Persons of the Trinity answer it. Whether or not I succeeded, well...I'll leave that for you to say.

EDIT: Thanks to some helpful advice from Kathryn Hill on a different hymn at the 2014 Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music (about which I will post later), I've re-worked my latest hymn. It still needs more work, but for once I plan on keeping track of my progress as I make it. Let me know what you think or what advice you might have.

Saints of God, the Devil, Prowling

1. Saints of God, the devil, prowling,
Seeking whom he may devour,
With his demon horde is howling
In this persecution hour,
Tempting, blaming, sin-befouling.
Who on earth resists his pow'r?

2. Saints of God, our holy Father,
Looking from eternity,
Saw our fall, but still would gather
Sinners who from Satan flee.
He sent Christ to be our Brother,
Sent the Christ to set us free.

3. Saints of God, the Son, our Savior,
Born of woman, born of God,
Bore the brunt of man’s disfavor,
Bore the curse: death’s savage rod.
Now death’s sting is gone forever.
Overcome is Satan’s fraud.

4. Saints of God, the Spirit crying
Comforts us in ev’ry need.
Death, the world, the devil’s lying
Can no more our souls impede.
Now the Spirit, ever vying,
Calls God’s children free indeed.

5. Saints of God, our flesh betrays us.
See the prince of earth conspire.
All who hate the Word would slay us,
Sentence us to angry fire.
Though they beat us, mock, or flay us,
None can dare our souls require.

6. Saints of God, the world deplores us.
Rage and spite, our earthly lot.
Boldly face the cross before us.
Let the faithless scheme and plot.
We, though all the world abhors us,
By Christ’s holy blood are bought.

7. Saints of God, though death comes near us,
Blessed are we to face the blade.
Rise to pray. The Father hears us.
Tremble not! Be not afraid!
Sing for joy! The Lord will cheer us
With white robes that never fade.

∆ 8. Saints of God who live hereunder,
Hail Him with the angel host.
Martyrs, make your praises thunder:
Sing the name of which we boast,
Worshipping in endless wonder
Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

© 2014 Alan Kornacki, Jr.
87 87 87
Suggested Tune: Ascended Triumph
(LSB 491, © 1973 Henry Gerike--ask him for permission to use)

PUBLIC DOMAIN TUNE: Westminster Abbey
(LSB 914)